Battle lines drawn in Welcome Inn lawsuit
By:   //  Investigative Reports, Legal

Four owners of a Welcome Inn located in Quincy, Illinois are being sued for allegations of violating that state’s Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) in a in the complex Welcome Inn lawsuit that has spanned nearly two years.

Plaintiffs April R. Brashier, Richard M. Orencia, and Chad Lebow filed a lawsuit against Quincy Property LLC, doing business as “Welcome Inn,” and Brett Burge, Kenneth Logan, Quentin Kearney and Joe Wimberly under FLSA and Illinois Wage Laws. The lawsuit, filed Jan. 28, 2017, alleges the plaintiffs worked at the defendants’ hotels and weren’t paid overtime due under FLSA.

The plaintiffs further allege they were misclassified as salaried employees exempt from FLSA, and that the defendants illegally deducted amounts from their pay in violation of FLSA.

Under FLSA, employees may bring a collective action against an employer to recover unpaid overtime or minimum wages. Unlike class actions under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure whereby potential plaintiffs are included in the class unless they opt out, potential plaintiffs in FLSA collective actions must affirmatively opt in to the suit, according to Cornell Law School.

Brashier claims in court documents she was unjustly terminated at Welcome Inn for complaining about a lack of overtime pay, and threatened with illegal wage deductions.

Lebow alleges the defendants also retaliated against him. He claims they reduced his wages and/or tried to intimidate him by “strictly scrutinizing his work because he requested overtime pay.”

Allegations and court documents have flown back and forth since the case’s filing.

Points of contention

The first disagreement between the parties concerns the definition of Collective. This affects to whom the notice is sent. The plaintiffs assert the Collective should be defined as “all salaried employees” while the defendants contend it should be limited to individuals at Welcome Inn holding the title of housekeeper, maintenance staff, front desk personnel, and skilled trade construction employees, or those performing similar tasks, according to

The plaintiffs also allege the defendants improperly took deductions from salaried employees, therefore, a class of all salaried employees is appropriate.

The court found that notice must be sent to those employees, classified as exempt, who were paid less than $455 weekly. One of the requirements for classifying employees as exempt from overtime and minimum-wage requirements is that they are paid at least $455 per week. Plaintiff Orencia asserts he was classified as exempt, but was paid less than $455 per week, court documents show.

The parties also disagree on whether the notice can be transmitted by text message in addition to US Mail and email. Plaintiffs propose providing an abbreviated notice to potential opt-ins by text message. This could help potential opt-ins further inquire about the case.

The case is being heard by U.S. Magistrate Judge Tom Schanzle-Haskins.

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Photo: David J. Pryzbylski, attorney

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